Fatty acids, normally found in comb wax, have a strong influence on nestmate recognition in honey bees, Apis mellifera L. Previous work has shown that bees from different colonies, when treated with 16- or 18-carbon fatty acids, such as oleic, linoleic, or linolenic acids, are much less likely to fight than bees from two colonies when only one of the two is treated. Previous work also shows that the influence of comb wax on recognition has practical applications; transfer of empty comb between colonies, before merger of those colonies, reduces fighting among workers within the merged colony. Flax oil contains many of the same fatty acids as beeswax. Here, we tested the hypothesis that treatment of individual bees with flax oil affects nestmate recognition; the results proved to be consistent with this hypothesis and showed that treated bees from different colonies were less likely to fight than untreated bees. These results suggest that flax oil may be useful in facilitating colony mergers.
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Vol. 105 • No. 4